After Ha Noi expanded to thrice its original size a few months ago, many experts have revived a protest against a mega project to reclaim land on both sides of the Red River (Song Hong) in the capital to build a modern ‘city’.
An artist's impression of the "Red River City"
“Red River City”, built by narrowing the river’s flow along a 12-kilometer stretch, would not only cost a lot of money but could also destroy centuries of tradition centered in that very area, they warned.
Professor Nguyen Tai of the capital’s privately-owned Phuong Dong University said it would endanger the fate of traditional trade and craft villages on both sides of the river and gradually diminish, through human intervention, heritages and cultural centers.
“Should we invest in eco-zones, parks, resorts, and exhibition centers [along the river] rather than skyscrapers [that] will imprison the river and obstruct its magnificent natural views?"
“We cannot afford to turn this famous river into another To Lich,” he warned, referring to another river that was a favorite of poets and writers down the ages but is now heavily polluted.
He warned the project would also directly affect thousands of people living along the river banks, pointing out that the US$7-billion project has become superfluous considering the capital has been expanded and has abundant land now.
Fish out of water?
Red River City would not fit its surrounding environment, he added.
The river’s south teems with ancient landmarks like the Old Quarter, while to its north is West Lake (Ho Tay).
South of it also lies an ancient area built by the French.
All of them exist in harmony, bearing a traditional touch with low buildings of historical value that would be out of place alongside tall, modern structures.
Other experts warned constricting the river could cause it to inundate parts of the city.
They also wondered if Hanoi would have the energy left for other important plans if it spends the next dozen or so years developing this narrow strip.
Building a city along a major river has been successfully done in Paris, Bangkok, Seoul and others and should definitely be done in Vietnam. But could it be done elsewhere?